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Common Name(s): Hazeleaf or farafard (as an herb), Snooze Daisy or islemorn (as a flower); a Northern version is known as Dreamflower or shremirf.
Description: Hazeleaf is a flowering plant in the daisy family. It grows 2-3 feet high. It has complicated fernlike leaves with many rounded lobes, covered with dense silvery hairs that discourage herbivores. Tall stems support the large daisylike flowers, long white petals surrounding a yellow cone. The flowers have a faintly sweet, grassy smell.
This plant has a sturdy, fibrous root system that anchors loose soil and soaks up surface water easily. It thrives even on steep slopes, and can subsist on dew when there is little rain or groundwater.
Habitat: Hazeleaf grows wild in open spaces such as mountainsides, meadows, and prairies. It prefers full sun but will tolerate light shade. It does best in light soil (sand or gravel) that is not too rich. It can handle slopes, as its fibrous root system locks the soil in place and prevents erosion.
It thrives in much of the South, although not in wet tropical areas. Most prevalent in the interior plains and mountains as a wildflower, it is also cultivated in coastal areas and cities for various purposes.
Pests: Hazeleaf has few natural pests. Herbivores tend to avoid the hairy leaves. Birds, mice, and other small animals feed on the seeds. The roots are vulnerable to fungal infections and tend to die if left standing in water for more than a brief period.
Propagation: This plant tends to behave as a perennial in warm regions and an annual in cold regions. The large daisy-like flowers are pollinated by butterflies, bees, and other insects. Ornamental varieties are often planted in gardens to attract beneficial insects. Some gardeners enjoy crossing different plants in search of new flower colors, fragrances, or leaf shapes.
Small, dark green seeds form in the central cone. They are relished by birds, mice, and other small animals. They are also light enough to float several yards on the wind.
Like many wildflowers, hazeleaf seeds require light to germinate. They sprout quite readily in favorable conditions, and can become weedy in open areas. However, most places have sufficient ground cover to shade the seeds, so that they are unlikely to sprout unless the soil is disturbed enough to expose them. Hazeleaf is one of several wildflower types that often appear in vast swaths after a fire, landslide, or other major disturbance.
Farmers may grow hazeleaf in disturbed fields or on slopes, where other crops fail. In areas with wet or heavy soils, it can be sown in raised beds to provide better drainage.
Relatives: Hazeleaf is distantly related to chamomile. Ornamental varieties of hazeleaf are popular among gardeners; the medicinal and recreational value of these plants ranges from moderate to very low. These ornamental varieties are cultivated for stronger fragrance and/or brighter colors, such as yellow, pink, and lavender.
A Northern version, dreamflower, is known only in Smokewater Valley and a few other protected locations in the North. Dreamflower is much shorter, with smaller flowers that have shorter petals. The flower stems reach less than a foot in height, and fine yarrow-like leaves form a mat only a few inches tall. Dreamflower has stronger soporific and analgesic qualities with very little in the way of psychotropic effects, although some people report that it gives them particularly vivid dreams. A very few claim that it enhances their Other-sight ... a useless effect since they're too lethargic to do anything about what they see. The flower buds are dried for use in medicinal teas, one of the more potent herbs available in the North. The leaves are not used as often, but some people like their much milder soothing effects. Leaves may be harvested fresh for use in steam baths, or dried and added to relaxing incense meant to lower inhibitions.
Uses: Hazeleaf is grown primarily for medicinal and recreational purposes. However, it also makes a good plant for restoring damaged soils, preventing erosion, and attracting beneficial insects. Ornamental varieties have blossoms suitable for cut flower arrangements.
The uses are licensed separately in the Empire. It is relatively easy to get a license for growing hazeleaf as an ornamental or landscaping plant, or to purchase and use it for recreation. Businesses as well as individuals are required to have a license for selling or using hazeleaf, similar to alcohol or caffeine. A license to grow, harvest, or process it for consumption is harder to get -- especially for the leaves.
The leaves may be dried and burned to release a pleasant smoke. It is important to remove the hairs before use. (Cheap brands don't always remove all the hairs properly, which can cause lung irritation -- a common reason for fines and revocation of licenses.) The leaves are usually dried to a leathery stage, dehaired, then dried crisply and crumbled. Hazeleaf smoke produces a pleasant, mellow state of mind that many people enjoy. While not a true hallucinogen, it has mild psychotropic effects of which the most famous is a "hazy" effect of refracting light sources into halos or rainbows. The smoke has a sweet, green-gold scent similar to burning hay. Aside from recreational use, it also works well for soothing anxiety and many other psychological complaints.
Flower buds are picked and dried for use in teas. Hazeleaf tea has mild soporific and muscle-relaxing qualities. It has a distinctive grassy smell similar to chamomile, but with a wetter note: like a freshly mown hayfield on a very foggy morning. The flower buds are a popular ingredient in "nighttime" herbal teas used to treat colds, insomnia, and other minor complaints.
Essential oil is produced from fully opened flowers. It is difficult to make, requiring vast quantities of high-quality blossoms and specialized equipment. The oil is a stronger soporific and thus licensed only for medicinal use, not recreational use. It's a common additive when putting someone in a tent for an herbal flush, due to the soothing effects and because the muscle-relaxants help keep breathing passages open.
Hazeleaf is known to slow reaction time and decision-making, so using it at work is forbidden; but social use is acceptable. It is one of the most popular among the licensed "social lubricant" substances. People sometimes try to conceal a cold or other minor medical complaint by taking one of the stronger "nighttime" remedies and then going to work anyway. This is frowned upon in most jobs, and a serious offense in jobs with high risk or responsibility where impairment could cause real damage. It's about like speeding is in America: something that most people do occasionally, which rarely causes a problem but can be disastrous once in a while. People who are taking hazeleaf by prescription may be allowed to continue work with a special license, but are barred from risky or sensitive tasks.
It is not physically or psychologically addictive, although people with a strong predisposition to addiction may become dependent on it in the same way they may do unhealthy things with food, water, or other usually harmless materials. People with hay fever or other allergies to plants in the daisy family sometimes have a bad reaction to hazeleaf as well. Because this herb is so commonly used, known allergies to it are always listed on a citizen's health license.
Lore: The Yasiluu tell an amusing legend about Kasiikar courting a woman, first by bringing her a bouquet of multicolored snooze daisies. When that fails to win her over, he sneaks a handful of powdered hazeleaf into a campfire. But then all the women of her clan -- including the wrinkled old grandmothers! -- crowd around him giggling and making lewd suggestions.
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